STAT3 in cancer: A double edged sword

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Abstract

The transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 is activated downstream of cytokines, growth factors and oncogenes to mediate their functions under both physiological and pathological conditions. In particular, aberrant/unrestrained STAT3 activity is detected in a wide variety of tumors, driving multiple pro-oncogenic functions. For that, STAT3 is widely considered as an oncogene and is the object of intense translational studies. One of the distinctive features of this factor is however, its ability to elicit different and sometimes contrasting effects under different conditions. In particular, STAT3 activities have been shown to be either pro-oncogenic or tumor-suppressive according to the tumor aetiology/mutational landscape, suggesting that the molecular bases underlining its functions are still incompletely understood. Here we discuss some of the properties that may provide the bases to explain STAT3 heterogeneous functions, and in particular how post-translational modifications contribute shaping its sub-cellular localization and activities, the cross talk between these activities and cell metabolic conditions, and finally how its functions can control the behaviour of both tumor and tumor microenvironment cell populations.

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